The Red Wings exacted a small measure of revenge for a painful seven-game loss to Chicago in last spring's Western Conference Semifinals by overcoming their injury issues to beat the Blackhawks 5-4 in a six-round shootout Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
The teams hadn't seen each other since May 29, when Chicago won Game 7 in overtime, and though nothing will completely ease the pain of having their season ended, getting the second point against the NHL's defending champions, was a big lift for a Detroit team in need of one.
"I think that last playoff run kind of left a sour taste in our mouths, especially after they [went] on to win it," forward Justin Abdelkader said after finishing with two assists and a plus-3 rating. "We enjoy playing them and I think our fans enjoy it just as much or maybe even more than we do. It was loud. It was probably the loudest it's been all season here. It felt good."
Detroit fans haven't had many opportunities to get as loud as they did following the shootout, which was decided by Darren Helm's goal to start the sixth round and Jonas Gustavsson's save against Andrew Shaw in the bottom half.
Detroit's home record is just 8-11-7, but two of the past three games here ended with Red Wings shootout victories. They're hoping this one can spark a hot streak with home games this coming weekend against the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers.
"It's always fun to beat [Chicago]," said Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey, who scored a goal for the first time since Dec. 30 to tie the game 3-3 early in the second period. "We know that we can beat most teams if we play our game, but it does reiterate the fact that if we do play well, we can do it. Hopefully we use this as a template going forward."
Along with Quincey, the Red Wings (22-18-10) got goals in regulation from Tomas Tatar, Patrick Eaves and Gustav Nyquist. The offensive outburst helped Gustavsson (31 saves) earn a win in his first game back from a nine-game absence with a groin injury.
Jonathan Toews and Sharp scored in the shootout for the Blackhawks, who fell to 5-7 in shootouts and 5-12 in games that last more than 60 minutes. Detroit got goals by Patrick Eaves and Todd Bertuzzi in the tiebreaker before Helm's winner.
"We weren't very good tonight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "They worked hard. They were the harder-working team and getting ourselves a point out of there, with a chance for two in the shootout, certainly we'll take a point because we didn't play well enough or hard enough."
The Blackhawks, who visit the Minnesota Wild on Thursday to finish a back-to-back set, came into the game 9-0-1 in their previous 10 trips to Detroit. They got off to another strong start by forcing the Red Wings to play catch-up, but couldn't sustain it.
Detroit overcame a 2-0 deficit in the first with the goals by Tatar and Eaves in the last half of the period, then responded to another Chicago goal early in the second by scoring twice for a 4-3 lead.
Kruger's goal 5:12 into the third wound up earning the Blackhawks their point, but they also had a number of close calls offensively that weren't successful.
The teams meet only twice this season following the NHL realignment that moved the Red Wings into the Eastern Conference. But Toews doesn't feel the move will do anything to diminish one of hockey's great rivalries.
"I don't think it's going anywhere," Toews said. "Both teams still know what it means to play one another and it might add to it, I think, that we see each other less often. Tonight was maybe a bit of a slower start, but I definitely think the intensity picked up and we saw the type of game we're used to out of them later in the game. It's frustrating not to find a way to win."
The intensity might've lagged after the opening puck drop, but the Blackhawks weren't slow-footed. In fact, it felt like another big game might be in the making for them against an overmatched, beat-up rival.
Hossa scored his 21st goal at 8:41 of the opening period when Toews threw a pass that deflected off his shin pad and into the net, which was wide-open with Gustavsson caught out of position. Shaw quickly made it 2-0 at 10:26 by whacking a loose puck in the crease past Gustavsson for his 14th goal and third in the past five games.
They fought back to tie, and that breathed new life into the game and building.
Tatar cut it to 2-1 by firing a shot between Crawford's pads at 11:14 off a long rebound, and Eaves got the equalizer at 17:40, after a nifty assist by Abdelkader. After his stick was knocked out of his hands, Abdelkader kicked the puck to Eaves for a hard shot that beat Crawford high to the glove side.
"You can't hand-pass the puck and I didn't have my stick so it was kind of a slide tackle move, kind of a kick, and I got it to him," Abdelkader said. "Anytime Patty Eaves gets alone in front he's going to score more often than not."
Zetterberg got the secondary assist, but was just warming up.
Detroit's top line, centered by its captain, turned it up a notch in the second to create a pair of goals that gave the Red Wings their first lead. Zetterberg assisted on both. After Sharp put Chicago ahead 3-2 six seconds into a power play with his 26th goal, Quincey and Nyquist responded to give Detroit its first lead.
Quincey's came on a half-slapper from the high slot at 6:20, and Nyquist made it 4-3 by capping a pretty tic-tac-toe play with a tap-in goal after passes from Abdelkader and Zetterberg.
Kruger's goal tied it 4-4 and provided a dramatic backdrop for the rest of the third period and overtime, when a number of near-miss opportunities nearly ended the game.
"They're a great team and we played well right from the start," said Eaves, whose 17:17 of ice time was the most for him in the past 86 games. "We needed these two points worse than they [did]. It's huge for us and hopefully it will springboard us to something else."